Spellbound in Santorini

I have just survived a crazy few months of way too much work on my plate! What kept me going, though, between all the commitments and deadlines, were my lovely travel memories. One of the great bonuses of travelling is that you build a wonderful memory bank of experiences that you can escape to at any time. Whether you are sitting in a long boring meeting, burning the midnight oil to complete an urgent project, stuck in traffic or simply need to take a break from your everyday worries, your travel dreamworld is always on standby for a few minutes of happy escapism. My daydream go-to place for these last few weeks was the beautiful island of Santorini.

The Greek island of Santorini is famous for its breathtaking views and sunsets.
The Greek island of Santorini is famous for its breathtaking views and sunsets.

Santorini views.

I can’t believe that it’s already a year since my visit to this amazing Greek island. Santorini (or ‘Thera’ as it was known in ancient times) is so much more than a romantic destination for couples and honeymooners. While I have to admit that this was the one place in Greece where I really wished my partner could have joined me for the gorgeous views and sunsets, it is totally possible to have an amazing time as a solo traveller, with so many interesting activities to choose from.

Santorini can be very expensive, but if you plan well in advance you can visit Santorini on a budget and still enjoy everything.
Santorini can be very expensive, but if you plan well in advance, you can visit Santorini on a budget and still enjoy
everything.
The beautiful bougainvilleas thrive in the hot and dry climate.
The beautiful bougainvilleas thrive in the hot and dry climate.
The beautiful town of Oia perched on the dramatic cliffs of Santorini. It is possible to hike along the edge of the caldera all the way from Fira to Oia. I can highly recommend it. the views are breathtaking.
The beautiful town of Oia, perched on the dramatic cliffs of Santorini. There is a wonderful hiking path along the edge of the caldera all the way from Fira to Oia. I can highly recommend it – the views are breathtaking.

Santorini’s catastrophic volcanic eruption

Santorini map
Santorini map by John, Flickr.

Santorini is steeped in history and ancient mythology. Since my childhood, I have always been fascinated with this small, circular group of volcanic islands in the Aegean Sea, about 150km north of Crete. Santorini used to be the home of a very advanced and prosperous Minoan civilisation, Akrotiri, which was destroyed somewhere between 1645BC and 1500BC in a major catastrophic volcanic eruption – the so-called Minoan, Thera or Santorini eruption.

The volcano was in the centre of the island and, as a result, a big part of the land disappeared into the sea. Today the caldera (crater) of the volcano is under the water and the remaining parts of the island form a crescent around it. The main towns of Fira and Oia cling to the rugged cliffs high above, making for incredible views.

The volcanic eruption was so massive that it impacted the entire Mediterranean world with its accompanying tsunami waves and thick layers of ash which caused darkness and a drop in temperature. It is estimated that the volcanic explosion was the equivalent of 40 atomic bombs or approximately 100 times more powerful than the eruption at Pompeii! Many people believe that this ancient settlement was the lost city of Atlantis. (I like to think so too.) The volcanic disaster led to the fall of the Minoan culture, which was the dominant civilisation at the time, and has even been linked to the Biblical 10 plagues.

Visiting the prehistoric town of Akrotiri on the south side of Santorini is fascinating, especially if you can join a tour with one of the brilliant archaeologists on site. Akrotiri was a sophisticated and prosperous harbour town where ships had to dock if they wanted access to Santorini – this was an important stop on the trade route to Crete. The Minoan settlement boasted an advanced plumbing and drainage system, three-story buildings and so much more. Katerina, the archaeologist who led our tour, really made history come to life!

Visiting the prehistoric town of Akrotiri on the south-side of Santorini was fascinating! It really is highly recommended. This might just look like a heap of old bricks and rubble, but if you join a tour with one of the brilliant archaeologists on site, everything is brought to life. Akrotiri was a sophisticated and prosperous harbour town where ships had to dock if they wanted access to Santorini. It was an important stop on the trade route to Crete. The settlement boasted boasted an advanced plumbing and drainage system, three-story buildings and more.
The remains of Akrotiri, an advanced Minoan settlement that was destroyed by the massive volcanic eruption on Santorini. This might just look like a heap of old bricks and rubble, but if you join a tour with one of the brilliant archaeologists on site, its fascinating story will come to life! Some people believe that Akrotiri was the mythical lost city of Atlantis.
Ancient pottery at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, in the town of Fira.
Ancient pottery at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, in the town of Fira.

Spectacular beauty in Santorini

Besides the myths and history, there is, of course, the incredible natural beauty to explore in Santorini. It is so hard to summarise all that Santorini offers in one post (I could go on and on!)  so I will make use of pics and descriptions to highlight some of the things that made my Santorini visit so special. Santorini is any photographer’s paradise!

Famous sunset as seen from Oia.
Santorini is a photographer’s paradise. Here’s the famous sunset, as seen from Oia.
My accommodation was on the caldera side of the island (in Firostefani - which is situated between Fira and Oia) and I made sure to enjoy the beautiful sunset every evening.
My accommodation was on the caldera side of the island (in Firostefani – which is situated between Fira and Oia) and I made sure to enjoy the beautiful sunset every evening.
One of many beautiful sunsets, as seen from Firostefani.
Me, myself and I, with one of the many beautiful sunsets in the background, as seen from Firostefani.
Santorini has good volcanic soil but is incredibly dry. The island gets very little rain and it's amazing how the islanders manage to grow anything. Besides the little bit of rain in winter, the only other source of water available comes in the form of sea fog that envelops the island at night due to the reaction of the active volcano with the surrounding sea.
Santorini has good volcanic soil but is incredibly dry. The island gets very little rain and it’s amazing how the islanders manage to grow anything. Besides the little bit of rain in winter, the only other source of water available comes in the form of sea fog that envelops the island at night due to the reaction of the active volcano with the surrounding sea.
Santorini donkeys. Waiting to take tourists from the harbour all the way up to Fira town - it's lots of steps and I felt rather sorry for them. It's best to walk down and take the cable car back up.
Santorini donkeys waiting to take tourists from the harbour all the way up to Fira town. It’s a lot of steps and I felt very sorry for them. Please do the donkeys a favour and rather walk down the steps and take the cable car back up.

Save money by booking far in advance

It is true that Santorini is not cheap – there are many people, including Greeks, who still dream of visiting this magical destination one day. Though it definitely turned out to be the most expensive part of my Greek trip, I did manage to keep costs within reason by doing extensive homework beforehand to get the best accommodation, food and sightseeing at Santorini for my limited budget. I highly recommend that you book your accommodation as early as possible. Since Santorini is also a honeymoon favourite, you can imagine how ridiculously high the prices can get. Some of the more affordable B&Bs include transport from the airport in their price, which is a fantastic bonus, as a taxi can be very expensive.

A very yummy salad, made with local Santorini tomatoes.
A very yummy salad made with local Santorini cherry tomatoes, which are wonderfully sweet and aromatic.
In Santorini vines are trained in wreaths close to the ground to protect them from the harsh sun and strong winds.Santorini is famous for its indigenous grape varieties Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani. They make a wonderful sweet dessert vine, called Vin Santo.
In Santorini, vines are trained in wreaths close to the ground to protect them from the harsh sun and strong winds.Santorini is famous for its indigenous grape varieties Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani. They make a wonderful sweet dessert wine, called Vin Santo.
Perivolos beach with black volcanic sand.
Relax at Perivolos beach with its black volcanic sand.

If you would like to save time and fly to Santorini from the Greek mainland, you will also have to book very far in advance as this luxury can be very expensive. A great tip is to fly in from Thessaloniki (if you happen to be in the north of Greece) – that’s what I did, and it saved me a lot of time and money. If time is not an issue for you, the alternative is to take a much more affordable, but slow, ferry from Athens, Crete or Mykonos – beware, though, that these can also book up fast.

Be sure to visit Thirassia, a volcanic island opposite the caldera and Santorini (Thera) main island. The white buildings on the edge of the cliffs far in the background (they look almost like snow) represent Fira town.
Be sure to visit Thirassia, a volcanic island opposite the caldera and Santorini (Thera) main island. The white buildings on the edge of the cliffs far in the background (they look almost like snow) represent Fira town.

Santorini views.

Santorini is an absolute MUST destination that will leave you with many wonderful travel memories. Make sure you stay at least three full days, you won’t regret it!

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The Greek island of Santorini will blow your mind with spectacular views, volcanic beaches, great food and the remains of a remarkable ancient civilisation.

This post is linked up on Monday Escapes and:

 

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32 thoughts on “Spellbound in Santorini

    • January 15, 2017 at 7:44 pm
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      I hope you’ll be able to visit Santorini one day. It has so many stories to tell 🙂

      Reply
    • January 14, 2017 at 8:39 am
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      That’s the great thing about armchair travel… discovering so many new places to add to your bucketlist. Hope Santorini becomes a reality for you soon!

      Reply
  • January 4, 2017 at 11:13 pm
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    Oh it looks breathtaking but I never ever considered it would be so expensive. It is somewhere I so want to visit to enjoy the beauty. Thanks so much for linking up and have a great 2017 #MondayEscapes xxx

    Reply
    • January 5, 2017 at 12:37 am
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      Thanks, Sarah. Compared to the rest of Greece it is much more expensive, but if you plan and book far enough in advance, it is still doable for a budget traveller. And it is totally worth it!

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    • January 4, 2017 at 9:10 pm
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      Thanks! Really hope you get to go one day. Santorini has been on my bucketlist for so long… I still have to pinch myself to realise that it wasn’t just a wonderful dream!

      Reply
  • January 3, 2017 at 6:26 am
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    So happy to read more than the usual about how beautiful Santorini is. Great tips about booking in advance and I was happy to read about the original volcanic history as well. A long sojourn island hopping in the Mediterranean is in my future ( I hope!)

    Reply
    • January 3, 2017 at 4:06 pm
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      Thanks, Elaine. I agree. Santorini is so much more than just another Greek island with beautiful views and sunsets (no matter how spectacular they are). What makes Santorini so special is its fascinating history, which is what attracted me in the first place! It really blew me away. Holding thumbs you’ll also make your way to Santorini sometime in the future!

      Reply
    • January 2, 2017 at 10:13 am
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      Thanks, Bryna! Yes, Santorini is much more expensive than the rest of Greece. It took some careful planning on my side… but, finally, I made my way there 🙂 Hope you can too, one day!

      Reply
  • January 2, 2017 at 12:21 am
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    Really enjoyed your post, very informative. We have visited Greece a few times now but never got to Santorini, but we need to get it on our to do soon list!Thanks for sharing. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    • January 2, 2017 at 10:09 am
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      Thanks, Paul and Carole! I also still have so much to see in Greece. Hope you can make your way to Santorini one day…

      Reply
    • January 1, 2017 at 10:56 am
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      Thanks, Sally-Ann. That’s what makes Greece such a great travel destination for me: lots of natural beauty plus history 🙂

      Reply
  • January 1, 2017 at 3:58 am
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    Santorini has long been on my travel wish list. Very much enjoyed reading about the history of Akrotiri and your beautiful photos from your island visit! #wkndtravelinspiration

    Reply
    • January 1, 2017 at 10:53 am
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      Thanks, Ahila! Akrotiri was fascinating… the tourguide really made the ancient Santorini history come to life.

      Reply
  • December 31, 2016 at 10:11 pm
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    Never been to Santorini but it has to be one of the most magical places on the planet. Glad you had the opportunity to go and enjoy the island. I daydream about travel all the time too! #TPThursday
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    Reply
    • December 31, 2016 at 11:57 pm
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      It was a wonderful travel daydream that finally came true! Hope you get to go one day too.

      Reply
  • December 31, 2016 at 3:21 pm
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    I really want to visit Santorini! I just see so many amazing pictures of it. I have been to Greece a couple times but never during the summer, so would love to explore the country more and finally make it to an island. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    Reply
    • December 31, 2016 at 3:59 pm
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      I know… it also took me forever to make my way to Santorini! When you make it there one day, it will take your breath away 🙂

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    • November 18, 2016 at 1:04 pm
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      Thanks! You should go – you won’t regret it 🙂

      Reply
  • November 4, 2016 at 9:10 am
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    I would have loved to be there with you, yourself and you!! Thanks for the breathtakingly beautiful pictures and poetic text.

    Reply
    • November 4, 2016 at 1:57 pm
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      Oh, it would’ve been so wonderful to have you there with me. All of the yous and mes would have had a marvelous time 😉 XX

      Reply
  • November 3, 2016 at 7:33 pm
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    Dearest Birgit,

    That was again a wonderful voyage per blog, that you have taken us on, thank you! So enjoyable, your very interesting text about the island and the pictures, also so magnificent. Dreams are kindled once more!!
    Much love to you,

    Beate

    Reply
    • November 3, 2016 at 8:19 pm
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      Thanks for the lovely words, Beate. So happy you could join me on my journey ♥

      Reply

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